The 30-minute op that can save diabetes patients from losing a leg - so why aren't more patients being offered this?
Last year, Graham Baker was facing the prospect of losing his left leg below the knee, a complication of his type 2 diabetes.
Poorly controlled blood sugar levels had encouraged the arteries in his left calf to fur up, and this was obstructing the blood flow so much that the tissues and bones in his lower leg were being starved of blood and oxygen.
‘I had a scan to monitor the blood flow in my left leg and was told that without surgical intervention, I would likely lose the lower part of my leg — my years of poor diabetes management had basically blocked up the main artery,’ says 52-year-old Graham, a carer from High Wycombe, Bucks.
But specialists said they could save the leg — and it could be done under local anaesthetic in less than an hour.
It involved a newly refined procedure that clears the artery of blockages. Graham — who is married to Beryl, 53 — had the procedure, called endovascular revascularisation, at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford last September and his leg was saved.
There are many people in the same position who could also benefit from the procedure, but don’t.
In fact, new figures reveal that one person a day needlessly loses their foot or leg because this simple procedure isn’t more widely available.
Blockages in the blood vessels in the legs (known as peripheral arterial disease) is common, but people with diabetes are particularly prone. This is because nitric oxide, a gas we all produce that helps keep blood vessels healthy, becomes less effective in the presence of repeatedly high blood sugar — as can occur in diabetes.
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